Up to 18 million mobile phone customers are paying additional costs in order to stay connected, totalling over £64 million nationwide, for additional smartphone data, according to research from comparethemarket.com. Exclusive new research, found that 44% of consumers with a monthly mobile phone contract, have gone over their allocated data allowance before the end of the month.

Over half (56%) of those who exceed their data limit chose to purchase additional mobile data from their provider. The average amount added via bolt-on data packages is 1.72GB, at an average price of £6.38. Nearly a fifth (17%) spend over £10 on additional data packages and over one in ten (13%) admit they don’t know how much more they are paying for extra data.

Young people appear to be impacted the most when it comes to running out of data, where the number exceeding their monthly limit rises to 69% amongst 18-24-year olds, with over a fifth (21%) admitting it happens at least once a quarter. However, this age group is less likely to purchase additional data, with only 46% topping up once they have run out.

Data remains the top priority for many, with 42% saying it is the most important part of a mobile phone package for them. This figure rises to 71% amongst 18-24-year olds, followed by phone functionality (12%). The importance of data falls significantly for older generations who prioritise calls and minutes over internet use and phone capabilities such as camera, connection speed and apps.

Mobile Phone Priorities   Age Group
All Ages 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Data 42% 71% 57% 51% 40% 24% 14%
Calls/minutes 21% 7% 7% 17% 24% 34% 36%
Phone functionality 18% 12% 24% 16% 17% 19% 17%
Text messages 15% 9% 10% 11% 14% 17% 24%

Despite the high number of people paying additional costs for data every month, nearly nine out of ten people (88%) have never switched mobile provider as a result of paying too much for bolt-on data. A further three quarters (78%) have never switched despite believing they are paying too much for their mobile tariff.

Commenting on the research, Mubina Pirmohamed, Digital Expert at comparethemarket.com, said: “Smartphones are an essential tool for the majority of people, and as our lives become more digital our dependence on data will only increase. The advent of 5G and the upcoming release of models with higher processing power and data capacity are going to drive this surge in data consumption further still.”

“The fact that millions of people nationwide are using more data than their contract allows – and paying extra for it – suggests that many may not be on a tariff which is best suited to them. Unfortunately, it seems that many people still don’t know what they are paying for and this leads to consumer confusion and disengagement.”

“We feel that mobile providers should take better steps to explain to their customers how much data they will need at the point of purchase. If you find yourself regularly overpaying for, or running out of data, the best way to pay less is often to shop around and switch to a more competitive tariff.”